By EJ Spode.
Chapter 20: OG Homeboy
After I got reamed out some more by Penny I stepped outside to the street to try and clear my head. That whole cunts poem had more or less happened on autopilot. It was that running to the woods thing I guess, but a whole new version of it. I began talking to myself.
“Fuck. I completely fucked up. Again. Fucking fuckup.”
Athena came outside and looked at me and shook her head sadly. But before she wandered off to her car she threw me a lifeline. “We’ll talk later. Remember, I’m still on team EJ. I always will be.”
I gave Athena a hug and watched her walk to her car and start it up. Just then a little Native American kid, I’d say about 14 years old, came up and said, “Hello Mr. E.J., Uncle wants to talk to you.”
“Yes, Uncle is inside. Follow me.”
I figured what the fuck, why not? The kid led me to a back corner of the bar, and then I realized who Uncle was. It was OG – or at least that’s what Funmaker and Bigfire called him. Climax called him Homeboy, although I had no idea why. The thing is that the dude – whatever his name was – was ancient. No, seriously: Ancient. Funmaker said he was definitely over 100. Dimebag had some batshit crazy story about the dude – that he was thousands of years old. It was, sure enough, difficult to figure out what he was. He dressed like older Native Americans in South Dakota do, but his facial construction didn’t look very Indian. On the other hand, did receive mad respect from the Lakota and other tribes, and he was full of lore about their people. I was pretty sure he was the source for the stories that Funmaker and Bigfire told that night at Dimebag’s. Oh, and did I mention that the dude was completely fucking blind?
The kid brought me to Uncle, who had a seriously robust voice for someone over 100.
“Hello EJ, please sit down.”
“I very much liked your poem about death.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Call me Uncle.”
“Thank you Uncle, but I’m afraid my cunts poem may have messed everything up.”
“Perhaps, EJ, but perhaps it had exactly the effect you were hoping for.”
“No, what I mean is, it may have wrecked things with my girlfriend.”
“Would you like to join me in an inakagapi tomorrow?”
I hadn’t seen that one coming. Inakagapi is better known as a sweat lodge, but technically the word covers both the physical structure and the ceremony. On the one hand, I had always wanted to talk to OG but didn’t know how to approach him. Now I was being given an opportunity on a silver platter. Dude was over 100 — Maybe over 3000 if you believed Climax; Imagine the stories he had to tell! But on the other hand, I was supposed to fly back to Cornell the next day.
“Wow, that is a great honor, Uncle, but I must leave for school tomorrow.”
“Oh, silly boy, school can wait a day.”
He had me there. It seriously could.
“You are right, Uncle, it will be my honor to visit you and join you in an inakagapi.”
“You have made an old man happy, EJ. But come with us now. My friend Walking Feather will drive us to Flandreau. We have a place you can stay. There is much to talk about.”
“Flandreau? On the reservation?”
“Yes, EJ. It is only a half hour away. And you will like it there; they legalized Marijuana last January.”
“Are you going to smoke with me Uncle?”
“Oh, it would be impolite not to, my friend.”
“Well, I’m ready to go when you and Walking Feather are. Is he old enough to drive?”
“He drives me everywhere, so he must be.”
Flandreau was only thirty minutes north on Interstate 29. It occurred to me that I had no idea what I was getting into. Walking Feather, as I said, was something like 14 and could barely see over the steering wheel. Uncle sat in back because why sit in front if you are blind I guess. I was riding shotgun, mostly trying not to be too obvious about watching Little Feather. But you can understand why I wanted to keep an eye on the kid; I had zero desire to end up in the ditch for the third time in two days.
No one said much on the way to Flandreau. I wasn’t even sure if Uncle was awake for most of the drive. Little Feather didn’t even turn on the radio, so the only sound was the hum of the tires on the highway and the rhythmic thumping from when we hit gaps in the pavement. When we pulled into the Flandreau Rez, we drove to a little compound and per the instructions of Uncle, I was led to my quarters, which were in a trailer. The place was Spartan but warm and certainly workable for a one-night crash. Basically, there was a mattress with no sheets but a bunch of really colorful wool blankets and a firm pillow without a pillowcase. But hey, the ticking on the mattress was pleasant enough and I was exhausted and had no trouble falling asleep within seconds of going horizontal.
The next day I was up with the sun and I exited the double-wide to see Uncle and Walking Feather supervising the preparation of the inakagapi. The physical structure – sometimes called a wikiup — appeared to be around ten feet in diameter and probably four to five feet tall at the center. The best way to describe would be that it looked like a small igloo made from animal skins or blankets or a tarp instead of snow. In this case it looked like the inakagapi had been skinned with bison hide, which was impressive.
There was a small opening in the inakagapi, facing east. The opening only had a clearance of about two feet, so we would have to crawl in on our hands and knees. Facing that opening was the fire pit, which is where the sacred stones would be heated. These stones would be carried into the Inakagapi and placed in another stone pit in the center of the wikiup. The inner pit would be about a foot deep and two feet in diameter. Water would be poured on these stones, creating plenty of steam.
Some young Indian kids were heating the stones. When they became heated to the right temperature, they nodded to Walking Feather, who touched Uncle’s elbow. Uncle said, “it is time” and then pulled out a pipe. “Smoke this with me EJ.”
I don’t know what we were smoking, but it had a really mellow buzz to it. It must have been a righteous strain of weed mixed with tobacco. One of the fire tenders grabbed a stone with iron tongs, and another kid brushed the stone free of soot with some birch leaves. Then Uncle began singing a song as that stone and then the others were carried into the inakagapi.
It was genuinely a beautiful, somewhat mournful, song, and I was impressed by how Uncle had the Lakota meter down cold. I’m not sure there is an official way to transcribe Lakota, but I had the song down as being something like this.
“tanKA wa oo elo, yo HEY
tanKA mi eca
wa oo elo, yo HEY
wama yanka yo
wa oo elo, yo hey
unci wa oo elo, yo HEY
unci mi eca
wa oo elo, yo HEY
wama yanka yo
wa oo elo, yo hey”
After the stones were placed in the wickiup, the fire tenders began singing along with Uncle, and the Little Feather led us to the front of the structure, opened the flap, and gestured for us to crawl in. It seemed it was just going to be Uncle and me in there. I took Uncle by the hand and helped him navigate his way in.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see the red glow of the stones. It was hotter than the actual Hades is alleged to be. Uncle straddled a water bucket as he sat, and then he splashed water on the stones four times – once for each of the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) creating some fierce and angry steam. It was unquestionably hotter than I was used to from European saunas. When the hiss of the steam subsided, I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could hear the rocks humming. Is that possible?
The inikagapi was broken up into four “rounds” – each lasting about an hour. Between rounds, we would hydrate and cool off while the stones were replaced with new, hot stones. Each round had its own theme.
Traditionally, the topics for the four rounds would go as follows: The first round would focus on individual concerns. The second round would focus on issues involving the clan or tribe. The third round concerned matters involving all humans, and the fourth round would raise the topic of all life itself. Uncle told me that we would not be following the usual protocol – it was Uncle’s view that you couldn’t really separate individual problems from universal problems.
In the first two rounds we chatted about a broad range of topics. When we got to the third round, however, it was mostly about me, and I unloaded a lot of shit – basically my entire history with Penny, through the brutal split in Croatia the previous summer. I took my time explaining the total fucked up business about us triggering each other.
The story did not surprise Uncle at all. He nodded through most of it and then after I finished he smiled and said that it was a familiar story.
I didn’t know what he meant. “Familiar?”
“Yes, EJ, this is the story of the deer and the jaguar.”
“Deer and jaguar?”
“I was told this story many years ago when I met a shaman in Belize. It is a famous Mayan story, however. May I tell it to you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Image: Jana Astanov.
Chapter 1: Giants in the Earth:
Chapter 2: The Welcome Inn:
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s:
Chapter 4: The Trojan Horse:
Chapter 5: The Turtle Diaries:
Chapter 6: The Cartagena Diaries
Chapter 7: Penny
Chapter 8: San Pedro
Chapter 9: Triggered
Chapter 10: Letters and Dreams
Chapter 11: Helena and Steady Eddie
Chapter 12: Circe
Chapter 13: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter 14: The Sleepover
Chapter 15: The Bittermilk Road
Chapter 16: The Rocket Sisters
Chapter 17: The Pelorum Avenue Street Racers
Chapter 18: I reconnoiter the Stockman
Chapter 19: The Prosetry Slam
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, March 13th, 2017.